Pioneer Drum and Bugle Corps

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Pioneer Drum and Bugle Corps
Pioneer D&B logo.jpg
TypeParade Corps and Winter Ensembles
LocationMilwaukee, WI
DirectorBobby Bonslater
Championship titlesClass A60: 1991
Division II: 1994 & '95
UniformWhite jacket w/Orange & Dark Green baldric, Dark green pants, White gauntlets w/orange trim, White combination hat w/orange trim-ribbon & a large shamrock badge

The Pioneer Drum & Bugle Corps was a World Class competitive junior drum and bugle corps from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[1] Pioneer is a former member corps of Drum Corps International (DCI).[2] The unit current operates as three different winter ensembles.

Pioneer traces its roots to the St. Patrick's (Catholic) parish of Milwaukee and its drum and bugle (D&B) corps, the Imperials of St. Patrick, founded in 1961. Both corps had been active in the Milwaukee area and the Midwest region, and both attended the inaugural DCI World Championship prelims in Whitewater, Wisconsin in 1972, with the Imperials of St. Patrick finishing in 19th place and the Thunderbolts in 28th.[3][4]

By 1973, the Imperials were facing financial difficulties and the Thunderbolts were having difficulty maintaining support staff, so the two corps merged. This resulted in a 150 member corps—much larger than most drum corps of that time—with financial and staff stability. Unable to decide on a better name and wearing the vastly different uniforms of both corps, the new corps was called "The Thing" during its first season. In 1974 the corps received the sponsorship of the Pioneer Container Corporation and found a name. The Thunderbolts' cadet corps continued, joined by a second "feeder" corps known as Pioneer II. After only a few years, the Thunderbolts' part of the merger departed in favor of the Thunderbolts Cadets, leaving only the Imperials' part in place, bringing about the unit's dropping the Thunderbolts' 1953 founding as its beginning.[5]

While not initially a strong contender, Pioneer became a regular competitor in the Midwest region during the remainder of the 1970s, and in 1978, the corps was one of the founding members of Drum Corps Midwest (DCM) which was to become the premier regional circuit in North America over the next quarter century. In 1985 the primary corps went inactive, and Pioneer II began a transition into becoming Pioneer in 1986. By 1989, Pioneer had started to become a power in Class A60. In 1991, the corps won both the DCM Division III (DIII) title and the DCI Class A60 World Championship; in 1992, they won their 3rd DCM DIII championship but finished second in DCI DIII to the Mandarins.

In 1993 Pioneer moved into Division II (DII), where the corps was an immediate challenger for the championship. The corps was DCM DII champion for four consecutive years, from 1993 to 1996. In 1994, the corps went undefeated and won the DCI DII crown. They defended their DCI title in 1995, but in 1996 fell in finals to Quebec's Les Etoiles by two-tenths of a point. Pioneer moved to Division I (DI) in 1997, and have continued to compete in that division (now known as World Class), where the corps' best finish at the DCI World Championships was 16th place in 2000. Although Pioneer won the DCM DI title in 2004 and 2005, making them the only corps to win DCM titles in 3 divisions, the most prominent corps had abandoned DCM by then and there were no other competitors for the DI titles.

In 1994, the organization was administratively dissolved by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. But in 1998, the organization was restored to good standing.[6]

Pioneer celebrated the corps' 50th anniversary during the 2011 season.[7]

Since the banning of smoking in public places, such as during Pioneer's bingo operation, fundraising declined for the corps. In response, Pioneer "tightened its belt" by eliminating many expenses. The end result was a smaller corps, often the smallest in World Class, and diminished scores and lower finishes at the DCI Championships. Regardless, the corps has kept going and striving to be "Better Every Day".

On May 17, 2019, Pioneer announced that it will be hosting a weekend-only performance corps. The performance corps was started to be a foundation for Pioneer's plans to compete in WGI.[8]

On November 17, 2019, Pioneer announced a new executive director, Bobby Bonslater. Bobby previously joined the organization as the director for Pioneer's 2019 drumline.[9]


Pioneer Drum & Bugle Corps & Color Guard, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) musical organization. As such, it has a Board of Advisors, director, and staff assigned to carry out the organization's mission. The organization is under the direction of Executive Director, Bobby Bonslater and an interim Board of Advisors. However, the interim board of directors does not have the legal authority to remove current Board members, or make legal decisions on behalf of the corps without permission of the existing Board of Directors.[10]

Winter Ensembles[edit]

On October 28, 2019, Pioneer announced that they will be hosting three different winter ensembles, which will all compete in the Winter Guard International circuit. These ensembles consist of a percussion ensemble, winds ensemble, and color guard ensemble. These winter ensembles will have show themes that stray away from being Irish, as a way for the organization to rebrand itself. The percussion ensemble will continue to field a cymbal line, as long as there are still interest and membership.[11]

DCI Membership Revoked[edit]

During the 2018 season, Pioneer members and staff had sent reports to DCI and made threads on drum corps forums for compliance and administrative issues. These issues included little to no treatment for health issues and injuries sustained during the season, the organization's executive director making racist/culturally insensitive comments to the corps international members and jokes about the holocaust, and the organization having unreliable buses with no or little air conditioning for the long southern tour.[12]

On August 16, 2018, DCI had suspended Pioneer from all DCI activities, while DCI investigated the organization. The investigation focused on many issues reported by members and staff, possible retaliation for those who spoke out against Pioneer, as well as discouraging members from reporting questionable incidents and areas of concern.[13][14]

On August 24, 2018, DCI had decided that Pioneer will not be allowed to participate in the 2019 season as a condition of the corps' suspension. Following the decision, Pioneer informed DCI that they are moving immediately to replace the executive director and all board members of the organization.[15]

On January 10, 2019, DCI voting membership voted to revoke Pioneer's DCI membership. DCI stated that if Pioneer makes operational and administrative improvements, they will be eligible to re-apply for open class participation as early as 2020.[16]

Show Summary (1973-2019)[edit]


Gold background indicates DCI Championship; pale blue background indicates DCI Class Finalist; pale green background indicates DCI semifinalist.

Year Theme Repertoire Score Placement
1973 Fanfare (Unknown) / Circus March (Unknown) / Rule Britannia by Thomas Arne and James Thomson /
Skyliner by Charlie Barnet and Dale Bennett / Elijah Rock (Traditional) /
Here There And Everywhere by Lennon–McCartney
65.15 26th
1974 Fanfare (Unknown) / Elegy March by Roger Nixon / Hey Jude by Lennon–McCartney /
Skyliner by Charlie Barnet and Dale Bennett / In the Mood by Wingy Manone, Joe Garland, and Andy Razaf /
1812 Overture by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
71.10 22nd
1975 Alexander's Ragtime Band by Irving Berlin / Temptation by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed /
In the Mood by Wingy Manone, Joe Garland, and Andy Razaf / Encore in Jazz by Vic Firth /
How the West Was Won by Alfred Newman / Battle Hymn of the Republic by William Steffe and Julia Ward Howe
74.45 22nd
1976 Alexander's Ragtime Band by Irving Berlin / Encore in Jazz by Vic Firth / My Quiet Thoughts (Unknown) /
El Malo by Willie Colón / Selections from Cabaret by John Kander and Fred Ebb
72.30 36th
1977 Sheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov / Selections from Cabaret by John Kander and Fred Ebb 65.95 34th
1978 Could it be Magic by Adrienne Anderson, Barry Manilow, and Frédéric Chopin / Pepsi Theme (Unknown) /
McDonald's Theme by Kevin Gavin and Sid Woloshin / Bandstand Boogie by Charles Albertine /
Theme from New York New York by John Kander and Fred Ebb
57.85 4th Class A
1979 Circus March (Unknown) / Harrigan by George M. Cohan /
Sheik Of Araby by Harry B. Smith, Francis Wheeler, and Ted Snyder /
Give My Regards to Broadway (from Little Johnny Jones) by George M. Cohan /
Try to Remember by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones
65.96 31st
1980 Circus March (Unknown) / Mambo Tambo by Miguelito Valdés /
They're Playing Our Song by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager / Pippin by Stephen Schwartz
53.95 35th
1981 Annie by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin / New York Jump (Unknown) /
Walking Papers (from The Act) by John Kander and Fred Ebb /
Mambo Tambo by Miguelito Valdés / Morning Glow (from Pippin) by Stephen Schwartz
60.55 3rd Class A
1982 Selections from 42nd Street by Harry Warren and Al Dubin / Morning Glow (from Pippen) by Stephen Schwartz 56.30 5th Class A
1983 Alexander's Ragtime Band by Irving Berlin /
Way Down Yonder in New Orleans by John Turner Layton Jr. and Henry Creamer /
I Feel the Earth Move by Carole King / Waiting for the A Train by Jimmie Rodgers /
Lullaby of Broadway (from 42nd Street) by Harry Warren and Al Dubin
51.45 32nd
1984 Far From Over by Vince DiCola and Frank Stallone / All Night Long by Lionel Richie /
Shop Around by Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy /
Waiting for the A Train by Jimmie Rodgers / La Cage Aux Folles by Jerry Herman
15th Div.III
1985 Oklahoma! (from Oklahoma!) by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II /
Medley of George M. Cohan pieces / Comedian's Galop by Dmitry Kabalevsky /
Return of the Spiders by Alice Cooper, Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith /
The Hands of Time (Theme from Brian's Song) by Michel Legrand, Marilyn and Alan Bergman
--- ---
1986 Irish Rhapsody by Victor Herbert /
McNamara's Band by Guy Bonham, John J. Stamford, Red Latham, Shamus O'Connor, and Wamp Carlson /
The Girl I Left Behind from (the Irish Suite) (Traditional), adapted by Leroy Anderson /
Reeling and Railing (Traditional) / Kelly the Boy from Calion (Traditional) /
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling by Ernest R. Ball, Chauncey Olcott, and George Graff Jr.
53.4 15th Class A60
1987 The American Spirit America (from West Side Story) by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim /
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling by Ernest R. Ball, Chauncey Olcott, and George Graff Jr. / America by Neil Diamond /
Stars and Stripes Forever, Thunder March & Manhattan Beach March by John Philip Sousa /
57.50 13th Class A60
1988 Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin / Jericho by Morton Gould /
Carioca by Vincent Youmans, Edward Eliscu, and Gus Kahn / Rockin' Robin by Leon René /
My Old Kentucky Home & Camptown Races by Stephen Collins Foster /
Autumn Leaves by Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prévert, adapted by Johnny Mercer /
Way Down Yonder in New Orleans by Turner Layton and Henry Creamer
69.20 11th Class A60
1989 (Up a) Lazy River by Hoagy Carmichael and Sidney Arodin / Go Tell It on the Mountain (Traditional) /
Jericho by Morton Gould / Carioca by Vincent Youmans, Edward Eliscu, and Gus Kahn /
Where is the Love by Ralph MacDonald and William Salter
76.10 8th Class A60
1990 Repertoire unavailable 85.59 3rd Class A60
1991 Irish Festival A collection of traditional Irish folk songs 86.00 1st Class A60
1992 Jig (from Saint Paul's Suite, First Movement) by Gustav Holst /
Freda by Kenny Baker / Minstrel Boy (Traditional) and Thomas Moore /
The Rakes of Mallow (Traditional), adapted by Leroy Anderson / Four Scottish Dances by Malcolm Arnold
2nd Div.III
5th Div.II/III
1993 Gary Owen March (Traditional) / Over There by George M. Cohan / Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! by George F. Root /
My Bonny Boy (Traditional), adapted by Ralph Vaughan Williams / Far and Away by John Williams
4th Div.II
1994 Voices of the Isle Four Scottish Dances by Malcolm Arnold /
Maggie Goes To Scotland & The Seduction (from Year of the Comet) by Hummie Mann /
Gary Owen March (Traditional) / Danny Boy (Traditional) and Frederic Weatherly
1st Div.II
1995 Shades of the Emerald Diamond Dance by Bill Douglas /
Maggie Goes To Scotland, Helicopter Chase& The Seduction (from The Year of the Comet) by Hummie Mann /
Cursum Perficio, Storms in Africa & Orinoco Flow by Enya and Roma Ryan
1st Div.II
1996 Celtic Twilight Highstep by Bill Douglas / The Journey Home by John Doan /
Scotland the Brave (Traditional) / Gary Owen March (Traditional)
2nd Div.II
1997 Riverdance Riverdance, The Heart's Cry, Shivna, Woman of Sidhe, Russian Dervish, American Wake, Firedance & Home and the Heartland
All from Riverdance by Bill Whelan
76.80 19th
1998 Irish in your Face Irish Washerwoman (First Movement from Irish Suite) (Traditional), adapted by Leroy Anderson /
Londonderry Air \ (Traditional), adapted by Percy Grainger / Irish Rhapsody by Victor Herbert
77.20 18th
1999 Greensleeves Flute Concerto Movement III by Christopher Rouse /
The Girl I Left Behind (from Irish Suite) (Traditional), adapted by Leroy Anderson /
Magh Seola (The Level Plain) by Gerard Fahy / The Cat Rambles to the Child's Saucepan (Traditional) /
English Dances 4th Movement by Malcolm Arnold /
Dargason (from The Saint Paul's Suite - Movement 4) (Traditional), adapted by Gustav Holst
75.20 17th
2000 Dances of Brigadoon Fanfare (Original by Pioneer Staff) /
McConachy Square, Come To Me, Almost Like Being in Love & The Chase
From Brigadoon by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe
77.60 16th
2001 Irish in the Civil War...
A Quest for Freedom
Main Theme from Gettysburg by Randy Edelman / Variations on the Theme from Minstrel Boy by Frank McNamara /
Over the Fence & Dawn (from Gettysburg) by Randy Edelman / Dixie by Daniel Decatur Emmett /
Battle at Devil's Den (from Gettysburg) by Randy Edelman /
America the Beautiful by Samuel A. Ward and Katharine Lee Bates
79.30 18th
2002 Oliver! Where is Love?, Main title theme, Be Back Soon, Consider Yourself,
The Robbery, As Long As He Needs Me & Who Will Buy
All from Oliver! by Lionel Bart
73.25 22nd
2003 Spirit of the Pioneer The Song of Moses by David Holsinger 72.30 23rd
2004 Return to Ireland By Loch and Mountain by Robert W. Smith /
Irish Washerwoman (First Movement from Irish Suite) (Traditional), adapted by Leroy Anderson /
Irish Washerwoman (Traditional), adapted by Robert W. Smith / Lord of the Dance by Ronan Hardiman /
Believe Me, if All those Endearing Young Charms (Traditional) and Thomas Moore / Riverdance by Bill Whelan
71.60 24th
2005 This Place Called Ireland Our Homeland, The Irish Spirit, Tragic Legacy, & Celtic Pride by Rick Kirby 71.525 23rd
2006 Emeraldscapes Tarantella (from The Blue Room and Other Stories) by Phil Kline /
Slane (Traditional), commonly attributed to Dallán Forgaill
71.55 23rd
2007 Fields of Green Suite in E♭ by Gustav Holst /
Dargason (from The Saint Paul's Suite - Movement III) (Traditional), adapted by Gustav Holst /
The Rakes of Mallow & Irish Washerwoman (Irish Suite, 1st Movement) (Traditional), adapted by Leroy Anderson /
Minstrel Boy (Traditional) and Thomas Moore / Gary Owen March (Traditional)
73.325 22nd
2008 Celtic Reflections Suite in E♭ by Gustav Holst / Horkstow Grange (from Lincolnshire Posy) (Traditional) adapted by Percy Grainger /
The Celtic Symphony by Brian Warfield / Richard III & Crown Imperial by William Walton
74.125 20th
2009 Celtic Trinity Three Celtic Dances by Brian Balmages / Into The Raging River by Steven Reineke 75.75 21st
2010 Corps Prayer Swing Low, Sweet Chariot by Wallace Willis / Make His Praise Glorious by Bill and Robin Wolaver /
The Prayer by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager, Alberto Testa and Tony Renis /
Stained Glass by David Gillingham / Old Hundredth (the Doxology) by Loys Bourgeois
73.95 23rd
2011 Celebrate Four Scottish Dances by Malcolm Arnold /
Song without Words, I'll Love My Love from 2nd Suite in F for Military Band (Traditional), adapted by Gustav Holst /
New World Symphony by Antonin Dvořák / As Time Goes By (from Everybody's Welcome) by Herman Hupfeld
68.40 27th
2012 Irish Immigrants:
The Hands that Built America
New World Symphony by Antonín Dvořák / Recollections of Ireland by Ignaz Moscheles /
I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen by Thomas P. Westendorf /
I'm Shipping Up To Boston by Woody Guthrie,
Al Barr, Ken Casey, Matt Kelly, James Lynch, Marc Orrell, Josh "Scruffy" Wallace, and Tim Brennan
66.20 27th
2013 A New Spirit Doxology by Loys Bourgeois and Thomas Ken / Awesome God by Rich Mullins /
It Is Well With My Soul by Philip Bliss and Horatio Spafford / Just A Closer Walk With Thee (Traditional) /
When the Saints Go Marching In (Traditional) adapted by Luther G. Presley /
The Hymn of Joy by Ludwig van Beethoven and Henry van Dyke / Gary Owen (Traditional)
69.050 28th
2014 Joy! A Mighty Fortress Is Our God by Martin Luther / We Gather Together by Adrianus Valerius /
When the Saints Go Marching In by Virgil Oliver Stamps and Luther G. Presley /
Hallelujah Chorus (from The Messiah, Part II) by George Frideric Handel
Irish Tune from County Derry (Traditional), adapted by Percy Grainger / Gary Owen (Traditional)
68.850 30th
2015 Exodus–
Divide the Sea
Unite the People
Exodus by Ernest Gold / The Ten Commandments by Elmer Bernstein / Man of Steel by Hans Zimmer 66.175 29th
2016 The Story of St. Joan of Arc Act I: Voices–Voices of the Sky by Samuel Hazo /
Act II: Conflict–Lauds (Praise High Day) by Ron Nelson /
Act III: Capture and Condemnation–Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber /
Act IV: Ascension–The Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky
68.375 29th
2017 Irish on Broadway:
The Music of Les Misérables
Look Down, At the End of the Day, Master of the House, On My Own, The Attack on Rue Plumet, and One Day More
All from Les Misérables by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel and Herbert Kretzmer
65.913 34th
2018 Celtic Dragons The Awakening by Rob Stein, Dave Campbell, and Julia Coleman /
Taking Flight (from How To Train Your Dragon) by John Powell /
Dragon Fire & Beneath the Earth and Sky by Rob Stein, Dave Campbell, and Julia Coleman /
64.300 36th
2019 Parade Corps DCI Membership Revoked


Pioneer has a tradition of Irish and Celtic influence in its uniforms and musical programs. This and the corps' shamrock logo are a heritage of the Imperials of St. Patrick.

Since the corps' days in Division III, Pioneer's motto has been "Better Every Day". This motto had been used by the Marion (OH) Cadets D&B corps, who in 1990 allowed Pioneer to also use it.

Whether it was a part of the year's musical program or not, from at least the mid-1990s Pioneer concluded each performance by marching off the field and/or "trooping the stands" (marching across the front of the grandstand in parade formation) while playing the traditional Irish air Garryowen (better known as the Garry Owen march). This tradition has occurred less frequently since 2010 but is still performed at parades.


A picture of "The Blenski Stone" at the entrance of the main field at Pioneerland in Cudahy, Wisconsin.

Purchased on St. Patrick's Day in 1993, the "Pioneer Musical Youth Center", better known as "Pioneerland", is a 7 acres (2.8 ha) property in the Milwaukee suburb of Cudahy, Wisconsin, which is the corps' own rehearsal and storage facility. The property contains a full drill field, half sized sectional field, work space for corps staff, a garage for the corps' trucks and buses, and a parking lot. The corps plans to add a facility with practice rooms, a gym, additional office space, and a bingo hall.[18]


  1. ^ "2016 990 Tax Form" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  2. ^ "Pioneer Membership Revoked". Drum Corps International. 10 January 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  3. ^ Steve Vickers, ed. (2003). A History of Drum & Bugle Corps. Vol. 2. Drum Corps World. |volume= has extra text (help)
  4. ^ "History of Pioneer". Pioneer Drum & Bugle Corps. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Pioneer Drum and Bugle Corps". HALFTIME MAGAZINE / MUSE MEDIA. 27 July 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  6. ^ "PIONEER DRUM & BUGLE CORPS & COLOR GUARD INC. (P008841)". Retrieved 2019-04-12.
  7. ^ "Pioneer drum, bugle, and color guard group marches into 50th year". The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 10 July 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  8. ^ "News From the Top - May 17th, 2019". Retrieved 2019-06-06.
  9. ^ "Pioneer Drum and Bugle Corps". Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  10. ^ "Pioneer Alumni, Booster & Friends Meeting Recap". Retrieved 2019-04-02.
  11. ^ "Pioneer Winter Ensembles". Pioneer Winter Ensembles. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  12. ^ Nadolny, Tricia L. "Broke-down buses, Ibuprofen, and a sex offender: On the road with Pioneer Drum Corps". Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  13. ^ "Citing operational concerns, Pioneer organization placed on suspension". Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  14. ^ "Update to the DCI Community". Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  15. ^ "Pioneer will not participate in 2019 DCI Tour". Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  16. ^ "Pioneer membership revoked". Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  17. ^ "Pioneer/Repertoire". DCX: The Drum Corps Xperience. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  18. ^ "History of Pioneerland". Pioneer Drum & Bugle Corps. Retrieved 6 March 2012.

External links[edit]